Is it Safe to Travel in South America?
Is South America a safe place to travel for foreigners? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is there are places and situations that are dangerous – but easy to avoid or to take precautions against when visiting.
Uruguay is considered one of the safest countries (if not the safest) in South America – to live in and to visit. Yet Argentina is very safe (low incident of violent crimes against tourists), Chile is considered safe and the majority of travelers to Ecuador – over 150,000 tourists visit the Galapagos annually – have a wonderful trip with few problems. Peru, Colombia , Brazil, and Bolivia have more mixed reviews – yet thousands of folks visit these countries year after year as well and do not become a crime statistic. You can too.
This article tells you what questions you need to ask (safety issues & health risks) and where to find the answers online for your chosen destination: Safety Tips – How to Research and Prepare for your Trip
A main consideration in traveling is not only the country you are traveling to but the area(s) of the country you will be visiting. It is not recommended to cross into Peru from Ecuador at the Macará border crossing. Why? There have been incidents against tourists by drug smugglers operating in Peru. Do bad things happen to everyone who crosses at this location? Of course not. But it is a good example of things to think about when planning a trip i.e. where you are going, how you are getting there and what risks or travel warnings are present.
In some countries bus travel may be inherently more risky than others such as Ecuador and Colombia compared to Argentina. In others, certain roadways may be dangerous in and of themselves – Bolivia is notorious for its “World’s Most Dangerous Road” (officially named Yungas Road) from La Paz to Coroico where many tourists died (estimated at over 200 per year) until improvements were made and new two-lane sections added (construction completed in 2006).
Safety Note about Yungas Road: You can now travel safely by bus from La Paz to Coroico bypassing previously dangerous stretches of road. The parts of Yungas Road not used for bus transport are now used by adventure companies for mountain bike trips. Great for notoriety and great fun, but be aware some tourists have died and been seriously injured when taking these organized tours. Make sure your bike brakes are fully-functioning and that the tour company has safety & rescue equipment.
Busses may have a good record of road safety in Argentina, but car accidents involving tourists (rental cars or other) are one of the primary cause of death for visitors to the country. Argentinians love to drive fast.
Before you plan a trip, any trip, be sure to research adequately beforehand – to see what you are getting yourself into! If kidnappings are on the rise in a certain area of Colombia – why for goodness’ sake would you plan to travel there? Common sense will go a long way in making your trip enjoyable and trouble-free.
For specific information about the country or countries you are planning on visiting – view their Crime & Safety or Police Emergency information page.
Traveling with children? You will want to read: Safety Tips – Traveling with Children in South America.
Have health concerns? Read: Travel Health Articles & Tips